Path tracing gives very good results but is often slow, has a lot of settings and requires expensive hardware. Render farms require long uploads and downloads, are limited to some Blender versions and are expensive on the long term. Real time renderers are fast, but have a limited quality level regarding lightning and complexity, they also require a lot of manual tricks, which brake when the scene is changed, sometime even with a simple camera move. They also require converting the lights and materials when coming from Cycles.
E-Cycles is a very optimized version of Cycles for Windows, Mac and Linux* using CUDA GPUs (2.79x version available here https://gum.co/SeYhy). E-Cycles is very fast, flexible and 100% compatible with Cycles, allowing to use all your libraries as is.
Thanks to code optimizations (for efficient memory access and better usage of the massive core count of GPUs), you can just hit render and already benefit from 1.5x to 2.8x faster rendering with the same image quality.
Some new optional features allow up to 15x faster rendering. Thanks to a new preset system, you can quickly choose between good looking renders done in seconds and high quality photorealistic renderings. You're client wants more realism? 2 clicks to select a profile, hit render, done. The render time for the render above went from 5 minutes to 23 seconds on a single 1080Ti. A tutorial and the according presets are included to quickly get the same results.
With E-Cycles you get support and weekly builds, always using the latest and greatest Blender.
E-Cycles helps you:
- improve your renders quality while rendering in the same time as before, using for example more bounces and caustics
- or save a lot of time by rendering faster with the same quality. The mean speed-up for the path tracing phase is around 2x out of the box.
- or go to the next step with videos and VR, thanks to new presets to render up to 15x faster.
- render very clean preview images thanks to a new AI denoiser that gives great results on still images starting at 16 samples. Really helpful for quick feedback with your clients
- save human time by using auto tile size and quick quality presets. Shorter setup time and faster rendering means it's easier to adapt to changes and deliver projects on time. E-Cycles can save you on tight deadlines.
- spare a lot on your electricity bill thanks to shorter render times
- get more out of your current GPU and keep your hardware on a budget. Buying another 1080Ti for example cost about 800€ and you may have to buy another power supply (+100€). So in this case with E-Cycles you can spare 800+100-85 = 815€
Users of E-Cycles:
Alleyne Studio, you can see several screen recording of him using E-Cycles on his channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKUhZgvE_RqZm9ImzKQ0RjA
Flavio Della Tommasa "Obviously in terms of performance I believe the data speak for themselves. On 8 images, 2h each, I lost a day of calculation. With E-Cycles, in just over 2 hours I solved everything." https://blenderartists.org/t/e-cycles-faster-cuda-rendering/1139717/116
"Impressive speed-ups", "support is good, all issues (specific to E-Cycles build) I have found and reported were quickly fixed" https://blenderartists.org/t/e-cycles-faster-cuda-rendering/1139717/79
"The Speedup is amazing" https://blenderartists.org/t/e-cycles-faster-cuda-rendering/1139717/60
"91s to 45s with a RTX 2070" https://blenderartists.org/t/e-cycles-faster-cuda-rendering/1139717/51
"3m:09s to 1m:42s, needless to say, I’m impressed!" https://blenderartists.org/t/e-cycles-faster-cuda-rendering/1139717/99
About the Author:
My name is Mathieu, I work on Cycles since 2015 (my first patch here https://developer.blender.org/D1530) and already have several patches in official Blender. All the improvements from E-Cycles will be proposed to the Blender Foundation after a year.
Is it for me?
If you render at least with a 90€ Cuda card supported by Blender on Windows or Linux, you get this build amortized immediately in most cases (it's often like adding a second card of the same price) and on the long run anyway due to the electricity you spare compared to rendering longer or rendering with more cards. The speed-up is for CUDA GPUs during path tracing (when the tiles are drawing on your screen).
For AMD GPUs users, OpenCL is only around 20% faster at the moment and is still being worked on. CPU is like in official Blender. You can still benefit from the new AI denoiser on all platforms. You can see the AI denoiser compared to other ones here https://blenderartists.org/t/e-cycles-faster-rendering-for-cuda-gpus-and-better-ai-denoising/1139717/671?u=bliblubli and here https://blenderartists.org/t/e-cycles-faster-rendering-for-cuda-gpus-and-better-ai-denoising/1139717/503?u=bliblubli or a 7sec render of the BMW scene with AI denoising here https://blenderartists.org/t/e-cycles-faster-rendering-for-cuda-gpus-and-better-ai-denoising/1139717/575?u=bliblubli
About the 2.8x version
The 2.8x version is based on Blender 2.8, which is still not officially released. Using this build has the same advantages (new features) and inconvenient (less stable and uses more memory than the 2.79 version) as the official 2.80 versions. The support offered with the builds is only for the E-Cycles part. Bugs found in the official version of Blender are to be reported to the Blender Foundation. If you prefer a stable and fast experience, with a huge add-on ecosystem, I recommend to use the 2.79x version of E-Cycles here https://gumroad.com/l/SeYhy. It also has some extra features for fast fly-through visualizations where only the camera moves, especially useful for archviz and product advertising.
Pre and post-processing:
E-Cycles on average is like adding another GPU to your configuration. Just like another GPU would, E-Cycles will make the rendering phase faster. Pre-and post-processing are done on CPU in Blender and will be as fast as before in E-Cycles.
Support is only for the E-Cycles parts. Bugs found in buildbots are to be reported to the Blender Foundation on developer.blender.org
Scenes have to fit in the GPU memory for the speed-up to work properly. Since some months, Blender supports rendering scenes on GPU while using system memory to some extent. While E-Cycles allows this too, the speed of the system memory is too low and your GPU will just wait for datas to arrive. In most cases, scenes requiring more memory than available on the GPU should be rendered on CPU
AI Denoiser and Linux:
In the June update of 2.8x with some Linux distribution (debian 9 and OpenSuse Tumbleweed for 1 user are reportedly not working), the AI denoiser prevent E-Cycles to start. 2.8x v20190516 and all 2.7x versions work on all distributions. A newer version of 2.8x for Linux without the denoiser is also offered until the bug is fixed.
Multi-GPU configurations and denoising:
due to a new bug in Blender on multi-gpu configurations, only the AI denoiser on 2.79x is officially supported when using multi-GPU configurations. If you want to use the AI denoiser on 2.8x with multiple GPUs, I keep a version of E-Cycles from 16th of May (v20190516) available, which doesn’t has the bug and thus is fast. The non-AI-denoiser is slower with multiple GPUs in all versions. It’s still faster than the official builds. Single GPU configurations work properly. A fix for the above-mentioned bug is being worked on.
Low samples renders:
E-Cycles produces higher quality samples (lower noise at same sample count). At comparable noise level, E-cycles is around 2x faster, but at low samples (under 64) you may have to tweak your sample count manually. Earlier version of E-Cycles had automatic sample count for such case, but it was decided after feedback from users to let the user decide if they want a cleaner render or a faster one in this rare case.
While many user report good times with CPU+GPU on E-Cycles, only CUDA GPU rendering is officially supported.
Minimum system requirements:
- NVidia Geforce 700 (any card supporting sm_30 which was released in 2013 or more). Latest RTX Cards are supported.
- 64bit Operating system
- drivers supporting Cuda 9 or more.
*The Linux version of Blender is faster as the Windows one in official builds. For E-Cycles, all systems have about the same speed. So the speed-up may be relatively smaller on Linux by about 10-20%. It means the mean speed-up should be around 1.7x time instead of 2x.